Drain Cleaning – J Bend

There are many forms of drain cleaning, each with it’s strengths and weaknesses. Today, we will focus on something most homeowners can do themselves:

J Bend Cleaning

One simple order of maintenance is cleaning out the tubular ‘J Bend’, or trap under your sinks. These connections are typically hand tight (no tools required), for easy serviceability. Note: this explanation is for plastic tubular, not chrome.

What does a J Bend do?

A J Bend creates a layer of water, called the ‘trap seal’, which acts as a shield to prevent sewer gasses from coming up through your drains! J bends are the most effective way to keep your home stink-free.

Although J traps are designed to be ‘self-scouring’, meaning self cleaning, they accumulate debris over time that can cause slow drains and/or unpleasant odors.

How to clean out a J bend:

1. Put on gloves and place a dish under the J bend.

2. Use one hand to support the J bend and the other to loosen the nuts (see image below). Take care to be gentle while loosening the nuts as using too much force can strip the threads. When you loosen the lower nut, water will start trickling out.

3. Wait for the water to stop trickling out, then gently remove the J bend, and pour the water from the J bend into the dish.

4. Clean out the J bend! You can take it to another sink and wash it, or you can push some paper towels through the J bend with a screwdriver. Note that grease can sit in the J bend and harden like mortar. I like to use a flat head screwdriver to chip away the grease.

5. Now it’s time to reattach the J bend. I recommend starting with the lower nut. Look at the nut before tightening, and make sure it looks straight (be sure to tighten these nuts by hand, it is easy to overtighten with tools). You should be able to rotate the nut a few times before it feels tight. If it feels tight after only 1 quarter turn, you may be cross threading, so loosen it, reposition, and try again.

6. Repeat step 5 with the upper nut.

7. Test your J bend! This is the most important part of the project. Start by drying the tubular completely (you don’t want to see a drip and be unsure whether it’s an active leak or residual from the install).

9. Run cold water, then hot water, then cold again. Fill up the sink basin, then drain it. Check the J bend for leaks as you do this. If there is going to be a leak, we want to cause it now, when we are sure we will notice it.

10. If the J bend starts leaking, no need to panic! Start by turning off the faucet and/or plugging the drain. If there is a slow and minor leak, try tightening the nuts a little bit by hand. If there’s a noticeable drip, the tubular needs to be loosened and repositioned before tightening. Check to see that the trap is pushed up into the pipe far enough. Check that the washer is sitting flush inside the nut, and that the washer is clean (see image below). Sometimes a little bit of dirt or grime can cause a leak. If need be, take the whole thing apart and put it back together, just take care not to spill water all over the place while you do it.

If the leak is very persistent and you’re getting frustrated, just step away for a minute. When you come back, you’ll probably solve the problem simply.

If you really can’t stop a persistent drip, and you’re out of ideas, it may be time to replace the tubular or call the plumber.

11. If you don’t see any leaks, double check by wiping the J bend with a paper towel or toilet paper. A dry wipe means no leak! If the paper towel or toilet paper gets wet, repeat step 10.


You just cleaned out your tubular trap. Set a layer of paper towels under it, and check the paper towels tomorrow just to be sure there aren’t any leaks.

And of course, if you don’t want to do this, and you live in the Fayetteville, NC area, feel free to give McShea Plumbing a call or book us online.

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